Customer experience: A new perspective for enhancing IT services
Whether serving their organizations through internal teams or managed services providers, many IT functions spend too much of their time responding to service failures and too little on improving IT service delivery. And when IT leadership is focused on looking backward instead of forward, they aren’t spending the time and budget that allows them to be recognized as a strategy enabling business partner. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break.
Taking a fresh look at your IT services through the lens of customer experience can be a great catalyst for breaking that cycle—and elevating your function’s ability to enable the business.
Start with service desk. Your technology users have pretty high expectations: they want fast diagnosis of issues, transparency throughout the service process, and efficient resolution. But beyond that, they also expect a great attitude and experience when working with your IT services desk. That’s because they also interact with many other customer service organizations—from banks to retailers to technology product manufacturers to shipping companies and more—that have raised the bar by focusing on customer experience.
In this environment, empathy, understanding, and a passion to resolve an issue is as important, if not more important, than the ultimate resolution. This has implications for hiring and training the people who provide services (i.e., technical skills are important, but so are soft skills), as well as for the practices you have in place to empower and encourage them to provide great service.
Upgraded service-desk tools offer new features that can impact customer experience. As you make investments in your IT service capabilities, look at monitoring tools that enable your team to react before an issue impacts your business, call-center technology that allows your engineers to see who’s calling before they pick up the phone, and new management tools such as ServiceNow that provide complete visibility into and historical tracking of incidents and steps taken to address them. While the tools enable the visibility, the most important change is to train the team to make and keep their promises. Organizations may have service level agreements – but the most important ones are the case-by-case commitments from a service desk analyst or engineer to the employee. Understand the situation, adapt based upon the urgency from the employee, and promise a date for resolution or update – and train staff to exceed those expectations every time.
Staff differently. In an era of centralization of IT services, field IT resources are often hard to come by. This can lead to a perception that IT doesn’t care about end users out in the field. While there is a premium in cost, we have found that having on-site resources at locations greater than 50-75 people can significantly reduce ticket response times and improve the customer perception of IT services. In smaller locations, local resources should be identified on a contract basis so remote hands can be quickly deployed when the technology – or end user – demands it.
Do “little things” that can make a big difference. A laptop comes into your service team with an issue to be repaired. While the team has that laptop, why not spend a little extra time to vacuum the keyboard, clean the screen, and replace the track point? These little things don’t take much time or effort, but they can surprise and delight the employee. Think about how you feel when you take your car in for an oil change and drive away with clean windows and freshly vacuumed carpet.
Taking it a step further, consider that big sales meeting coming up next month, attended by remote sales representatives who rarely or never come to the office but who depend heavily on their computers to stay connected and drive business. It wouldn’t take much effort to send a few engineers to staff an on-site service desk (think: Apple Genius Bar) and then invite meeting attendees to drop off their computers to be checked for any issues they may be experiencing. While you’re at it, bring along some extra batteries to address a common issue that people often don’t get around to thinking about until it becomes a problem.
Consider your business stakeholders’ experiences, too. Customer experience can also be a good lens for thinking through reporting and communications with your organization’s senior executives, functional leaders, and other stakeholders—as well as activities such as capacity planning, budgeting, and prioritizing projects for the coming year. As an example, I’ve never once seen a business leader care about CPU or network utilization – but they do care about how long it takes a loan officer to submit an application. When talking about capability planning and systems availability monitoring, a focus on end user experience is much more valuable than on the individual components (which make fast response times possible).
Focus on what’s in it for me. Systems need to be updated to meet business or technology requirements. Any deployment should include a communications plan that focuses on “what’s in it for me.” Too often deployments talk about improved stability or security and descriptions of new features –how these features are likely to be used by employees are forgotten or buried in the message. Always focus first on how this new tool can help the end user – ideally in the first few paragraphs of the communication.
Food for thought
All of the examples described above are things we’re doing in our Performance Services practice today—not only to provide value-added service but also with an eye toward delivering a better experience for our clients and their technology end users. Of course we always enjoy opportunities to share what we’re doing (and would be happy to off-line if you’re interested), but that’s not really the point of this article. Rather, it’s to offer some food for thought. Practically speaking, enhancing customer experience is something every IT leader could and should be thinking about—whether you deliver IT services in house, source them to a managed services provider, or are evaluating a potential managed services arrangement.
West Monroe Partners’ Performance Services run clients’ systems and routine processes with high quality and efficiency. For more information, please contact Nate Ulery.